Viewing a visual image should be more than just looking and reacting without much thought. Viewing is an interaction between the viewer and the art object. Although most art works are constant, the interaction varies with each viewer because of the viewer's own varied perspectives and associations.
a. Preparation - participate in viewing art works and discussing them in class; have an open mind about artwork. Assume that the artist had something to communicate.
b. Label - list name of artist, title of work, and gallery visited or location of artwork.
NOTE: DO SECTIONS IN ORDER! Respond to the following sections in PARAGRAPH FORM! Use the questions provided (Q) as a guide to provide you with information for your paragraph.
First Impression - record your first spontaneous reaction to the artwork. By the end of the process you may understand your first impression better or you may even change you mind. There are no wrong answers. Unfortunately, this step is where many people stop when they are looking at artworks.
Q. What is your immediate reaction to the work? List any words that come to mind
Description - this stage is like taking inventory. You want to come up with a list of everything you see in the work. The key here is to stick to the facts. Imagine that you are describing the artwork to someone over the telephone. This is a long and detailed section. Refer to the word bank below as needed.
Analysis - Try to figure out what the artist has done to achieve certain effects. You should refer to your first impressions and try to explain how the artwork achieves that reaction.
Q. How are the Elements of Art (color, shape, line, texture, space, form, value) and the Principles of Design (balance, contrast, emphasis, movement/rhythm, unity, variety) used in this artwork?
Q. What do you notice about the artist's choice of materials?
Q. What grabs your attention in the work?
Q. At what do you think this artist worked particularly hard at while he/she did this work?
Q. Do you see any relationship between the things you listed during the description stage?
Q. What mood or feeling do you get when you look at this work of art?
Q. What "qualities" do you see in this work?
Interpretation - try to figure out what the artwork is about. Your own perspectives, associations and experiences meet with "the evidence" found in the work of art. All art works are about something. Some art works are about colour, their subject matter, and social or cultural issues. Some art works are very accessible - that is relatively easy for the viewer to understand what the artist was doing. Other works are highly intellectual, and might not be as easy for us to readily know what the artist was thinking about.
Q. What is the theme or subject of the work?
Q. What is the work about; what so you think it means?
Q. Why do you think that artist created this work?
Q. What do you think the artist's view of the world is?
Background Information - find out as much about the work and the artist as you can. It is important to complete this stage after having completed the other five. Art works should provoke thought in the viewer. If you are given the thought or the answer before you experience the artwork, your own creative thinking might be bypassed and your experience with the artwork will be lessened. Research information in the library about the artist. Art Galleries and gallery educators are good sources of information about art and artists.
Informed Judgment - this is a culminating and reflecting activity. You need to come to some conclusions about the artwork based on all the information you have gathered and on your interpretations.
Q. Have your thoughts or feelings about the artwork changed since your first impression? If so, how? What made you change your mind?
Q. If not, can you now explain your first reaction to the work?
Q. What have you seen or learned from this work that you might apply to your own art work or your own thinking?
Descriptive Words to Use in a Formal Analysis of Art
ELEMENTS OF ART
THEMES IN ART
STYLE OR PERIOD
This Art Criticism Lesson is by Ms. Guttormson, Saskatchewan (no longer on line).
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